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Interview: Acey Slade & The Dark Party
“Goth’s don’t wear Fedoras!”
Acey Slade is a singer/songwriter, guitarist and bass player based in New York City.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Acey got his start with Vampire Love Dolls before joining the industrial-metal band Dope. After two records he moved on to The Murderdolls and when they finished touring the world in 2004, started Trashlight Vision. He continued to perform on-and-off with Joey Jordison in the RoadRunner United project and Wednesday 13 on tour; but when TLV broke up he started working with producer Shaun Morris on tracks that would lead to the formation of The Dark Party. His taste in music and performances have always been drenched in darkness, whether playing goth, punk, alternative or metal; but at the beginning of 2011, he became a true Blackheart when he landed the gig playing bass for Joan Jett.
Just before leaving the country to play select dates in South America with Ms. Jett, Acey made time to speak to DOMINION about his band, The Dark Party. Always charming and sporting a great sense of humour, Acey chatted about his music and upcoming plans, his fondness for dark music, his love of Tim Burton, and what he thinks about Skrillex. He also talked openly about what happened with The Murderdolls.
DOMINION: So… tell us how The Dark Party got started.
ACEY SLADE: Basically, after Trashlight Vision kind of dissolved and… I tend to do this thing… Trashlight was this punk-n-roll, Scandinavian rock-type band and when I’m playing, whatever I’m playing, I listen to something that’s the opposite. Otherwise it’s like taking your work home with you when you’re listening to stuff that’s similar to what you’re playing. I didn’t want to get done with a Trashlight gig and put on a Hellacopters CD. So I was listening to a lot of UNKLE’s “War Stories,” a lot of electronic – I’ve always listened to a lot of electronic – and I’ve always been into goth. So when I was done with Trashlight, I had this opportunity to work with a drum and bass producer from England. And after Trashlight I did the Wednesday 13 tour, so we were kind of doing it bit by bit. Towards the end of the album I hit a wall with it. And that’s when Andy, the guy who became my guitar player, asked me if I wanted him to put some parts on it. So he did, and he tied the whole thing together, and that’s basically how the album came about.
DOMINION: How did everyone come on board?
ACEY: Well, Percy I had known for a while. He used to come out to the Trashlight Vision gigs. He mentioned he was a keyboard player and a bass player, and we just always got along really well. So he was in my Rolodex of “keyboard player/rock guy.” There aren’t too many keyboard players in rock and roll, you know what I mean? So there’s one! Andy I had known forever. We just had this weird thing since he grew up in the town next door to mine in Pennsylvania. And living where we did, there really weren’t a lot of freaks per capita. So the fact that we’d never run into each was really weird. We’d have these moments where we’d say, “Hey, did you ever go to a party at so-and-so’s house?” And it would be, like “Yeah! But I don’t remember seeing you there…” But not only that, I really do believe he’s one of the best guitar players in New York. He’s just my favorite guitar player, period.
DOMINION: And he plays around with a lot of different people, doesn’t he?
ACEY: He does! He’s not selfish with his talent, you know? He plays with a lot of people – all he does is play guitar. That’s all Andy does. I don’t even think he eats, from the look of him. (laughs)
DOMINION: And your rhythm section?
ACEY: Matt was somebody that we had talked about initially, but Percy had a rapport with Chris, who played on the album. But Matt was always the guy, really. So he’s with us now. When you look up drummer in the dictionary, that’s Matt. Matt’s a drummer: hyperactive, always doing something, can’t ever sit still, he’s into a million different things and he plays drums like two jackrabbits fucking.
DOMINION: Nice. Now, tell us about this new record deal!
ACEY: Well, I’ve done it all myself, getting the record out. It’s what I’ve done in the past, so we put it out on our own. But quite frankly, the problem we ran into is that the demand exceeded our abilities. First we put it out on our own, and it was just too much work for two guys, myself and Shaun Morris, the producer. Our quality control was not as great as we would have liked it to have been, as there was just too much… high demand. So that’s when we signed with Trashpit for a UK deal. And they’ve been awesome! They’re very old-school. They get the whole packaging concept, and they’re all about keeping the band in the black, as opposed to the red where they keep the money coming in but we never see any. They were never like that. But we never had the record distributed in mainland Europe. Then Deadlight came along and said they wanted to re-release it. So that’s pretty much what happened. So we have that coming out and we also have a split seven-inch coming out on International Record Store Day, which I believe is May 20th. It’s an unreleased track, a track that’s going to be on the next album; and it’s with a band that’s called Jaime and The SDC’s. So we have a lot of things going on. Even though we haven’t seemed very busy, in the public profile, we’ve been very busy. We have 20 songs written for the next record.
DOMINION: You’ve been able to play around a little bit, as well, when you’re not busy with your other gig.
ACEY: Well, yes and no. Playing with Joan is not stopping me from touring, that’s not the case. It’s more about touring smart. Right now, gas prices are high and people don’t have money. That idea of jumping into a van and, “if we build it they will come” – you just can’t do that anymore. You used to be able to do that and still come home with some money in your pocket, because, yeah, people would turn up and gas wasn’t a significant cost factor. But with everybody right now, doesn’t matter who you are: everybody’s broke. So it’s really important to watch where your money goes. I’ve always been a touring guy, so I think I might have overextended my welcome in certain places and it’s important to watch out for that. Especially in England, I think I overextended my stay there more than a few times. So that was a big part of it. So now it’s “tour a little bit less and tour smarter, not harder.”
DOMINION: Is that why you recently scrapped some gigs in the US?
ACEY: Yeah. Part of it had to do with finances. There were some shows that we were going to do, and the headliners ticket prices were so astronomically high that I couldn’t justify it. So I opted to reschedule. And I never like to cancel or reschedule, but – I know you’ve been to the Middle East in Boston (Cambridge) – ticket prices were over $40.
DOMINION: Who were you playing with?
ACEY: It was one of the J-Rock bands, you know? And I get it, but I can’t justify that. I’ve always maintained and built myself on trying to give the most to my fans at a fair price, you know? My merch, my CDs, they’re always fairly priced. And, unfortunately, we agreed to doing the shows before we knew about that cost at the door. I didn’t think to ask. So… I just didn’t feel right about asking people to come out for that much money.
DOMINION: Let’s go back a bit on that. Why do you feel you overextended yourself in England?
ACEY: I’ve toured there more times… I just really love England. I just really do – and I’m not saying that because this is for Dominion! I love England and – right now I’m watching the English version of “The Office” on NetFlix for the second time. I’ve always loved English comedy, whether it’s “The Office” or “Mighty Boosh” or any of those – I’ve always loved England. The people, the sense of humor, the warmth… so I’ve just loved touring there. And that seems to be where my biggest fan base was: people in England turn up for shows. That’s what they do. “There’s a concert? Let’s go!” It’s a no-brainer. So it’s always a great time and it’s a great place to tour. Always. Even the nights that weren’t that great were always great, you know? But when you play everywhere from Blackburn to Cleethorpes, London to Swansea, you name it – I’ve played there. So after a while, people start to take it for granted, “Oh, I’ll see him next time.” (laughs)
DOMINION: So for those people who aren’t familiar, and haven’t seen you yet: how do you describe the sound of The Dark Party?
ACEY: Well, I’ve always been in very high-energy bands. So I wanted to do something that was more for the late-night drive home. Dark, but blissful. At least that’s the first album; the next album’s going to be rocking a bit more.
DOMINION: More rock?
ACEY: Oh, yeah, yeah. I said from the beginning that one of the things I wanted to do as a solo artist is to change from album to album. I don’t think enough people do that. Some bands, like AC/DC or Motorhead, you don’t want them to try something new. And then you’ve got guys like Mike Patton who are always trying new things and I like that. I kind of like the idea of changing it up a bit. I feel like there’s too many people who just go to the same well all the time. And I’m an artist, you know? I don’t want to use the same paintbrush every fucking time I go to the canvas. So I would say the new album is going to be a bit more industrial, if you’re looking for the tag-word. As opposed to… dark wavy, let’s say. And I’m already thinking that the third album should sound like a Danny Elfman soundtrack. Maybe. Who knows?
DOMINION: That would make sense as you’re a huge Tim Burton fan.
ACEY: That is correct, sir.
DOMINION: Are you excited about the two offerings he has this summer? (Frankenweenie and Dark Shadows)
ACEY: They look fucking awesome! Yes! And if anyone else out there is a Tim Burton fan, I suggest they check out the Twitter feed #jackhasaposse1 – and it’s not me!
DOMINION: #jackhasaposse1 – and it’s not you?
DOMINION: Okay. So the new album – are you going to work with your producer again?
ACEY: No, we’re not working together this time. He was awesome and he’s super-talented, but I want to have the freedom and ability to try new things. And, additionally, we’re a band now. It’s kind of funny that we’re all on the same page and eager to try new things. I am so blessed to have the guys in my band that I have because I’m not as talented as they are. I’m like an idea-guy. I’ll bring in an idea and by the time Andy, Percy and Matt put it through their little grinders, it sounds different than how I imagined it in my mind, but in a good way. So we’re doing it as a band. We are working with a guy named Dave Snow who played in a band called Stoneman, and he’s produced quite a few albums. We’re working with him in production and also in the mixing context.
DOMINION: The album has been out for about a year and a half, but can you talk about the songs a little bit? “She Brings Down The Moon” is obviously very popular. And that features Militia Vox…
ACEY: Oh, man. Militia is one of the most talented New York musicians I know. She sings for a band called Judas Priestess, an all-girl Priest tribute band. I’ve known her for a long time. There’s just different people in the New York scene that I’ve always admired, and something I always wanted to do with Dark Party was to see if I could get them on the record. But that song came from a few different things. I always liked how The Sisters of Mercy had the female vocals on “This Corrosion” or The Cult’s “Phoenix” and bands like My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult that have that out-of-the-blue real throaty gospel – even Pink Floyd had it on “Brain Damage” – I always just loved that idea. And Militia has that voice. I like the way it’s juxtaposed: you have this dark guitar rock with this really soulful voice that comes in on top. I love that. And she did a great job.
DOMINION: And what inspired the song lyrically?
ACEY: It was about someone that was close to me who had this really bright, bright presence about her and had kind of thrown herself in with drugs and alcohol. So… yeah.
DOMINION: Can you talk a bit about “Here Today” in which – in jazz I believe it’s referred to as a quote – you have a line from the Sex Pistols “God Save The Queen?”
ACEY: I thought they took it from me! But, yes; I love creatively borrowing. For sure, man, that’s cool. I do that in other places on the record, too. I just think that it’s important that when you do it, you make it blatantly obvious, so you can show that you’re tipping your hat. Look at a band like Airbourne, for example. What’s cool about them is that they’re so obvious about being an AC/DC -inspired band that you really can’t make fun of them – because they’re so obvious about it. “They sound too much like AC/DC!” – “Well, yeah!” That’s kinda the point. (laughs) And it was the same thing with “Here Today” because that’s the point. So, of course it’s from the Sex Pistols.
DOMINION: Were you inspired to write that song about your experiences in the record industry, or was it something else?
ACEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. When I wrote that I was a bit more cynical at the time. I was going through a rough spot, you know? Basically what was happening was… The Murderdolls were reforming, and no one was answering anyone’s calls. I’m not mad that that didn’t work out, because, quite frankly, I’ve ended up in a better place anyway. I put myself through school; I play with Joan Jett; and my band, Dark Party, is doing awesome. It’s kind of funny now, because the worst thing that could have happened would have been to be a part of that reunion. But at the time, the only thing that I’m upset about it is that it put me in a tough spot. I would get calls from friends and magazines asking, “Hey, how’s the new record going?” So then I would call the Murderdolls management and ask, “Hey, how’s the new record going?” You know? And I’d ask, “Well, am I going to be a part of this or not?” And the answer would be, “We’re going to call you back in just a couple of days. Joey and Wednesday are kinda at the helm of things, but we’re definitely going to call you back. It’s all good! It’s all good, don’t sweat anything!” So I was like, “Okay…” Then all of a sudden dates are booked and announced… I don’t care that I wasn’t a part of it. It’s more about being treated that way: I thought those guys were my friends.
DOMINION: Did they not call you back?
ACEY: I haven’t spoken to any of them. (laughs)
DOMINION: You’re kidding!
ACEY: No, no. The last call I got was from the manager. And he said, “Acey, you know, you were a really important part of the band, and I’m going to call you back in two seconds. Let me put my daughter to sleep and I’m going to call you right back!”
DOMINION: And… nothing?
DOMINION: So you don’t even know if his daughter got to sleep?
ACEY: (laughs) I don’t! As far as I know I’m still in the band, really! (laughs)
DOMINION: So what about the other guys, from the classic lineup, shall we say? Were you in touch with them?
ACEY: Well, I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but I think that they share the same sentiment. You have to understand, that when the band was put on hiatus, I was in touch with Joey and Wednesday a lot. I did the RoadRunner United thing with Joey, (in studio, on Fuse and the live concert), and I toured with Wednesday. And every time I would speak to these guys, it was, “Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it!” You know? It was like, everyone had the carrot dangled in front of them and we all worked for very little pay, with the promise that once the second record comes along… blah, blah, blah. And that never happened.
DOMINION: And it’s a shame. Let us move on to “Reptile House,” which you’ve remixed a couple of times.
ACEY: That was inspired by the Sisters of Mercy, I always thought that would make a cool song title. But I had that groove around in my head for a long time. In fact, a lot of the songs on the album came from sounds and melodies that I had had around, stuck in my head, and was never in the right band to use them. And to be fair, the other songs Shaun came up with, but they didn’t have any guitar or vocals.
DOMINION: Are you a fan of remixes or remixing songs?
ACEY: Yeah! And, not to go back on it, but one of the things that was cool about the Murderdolls was that you weren’t going to get a remix album. You weren’t going to get an acoustic album. We were just a really snotty band and that’s what I liked about it. But it’s nice to be able to take a step away from that, too; to be able to see what someone else can do with it and work with people that I’ve always liked, who do that. And that’s the cool thing about The Dark Party, is being able to work with whomever I wanted to. I had Loopy from Hanzel und Gretyl, who are one of the best industrial bands ever, if you haven’t heard them. I got him to do a remix. Skinny from Deathstars did a remix. So that was cool, to be able to take the identity of the song and then turn it over to other people and go “Here. Fuck it up, man! Do what you want!” (laughs)
DOMINION: Do you feel that’s something you’re going to continue with on the next album?
ACEY: Maybe! Actually, I’ll tell you one of the coolest things: we did Acid Planet remixes and I definitely want to do that. Acid Planet lets you upload the basic tracks, individually. You upload the vocals, drums and guitar – I think you only get to upload eight tracks but I could be mistaken about that. And people can go to the site and take the raw files and do their own remixes. So we had so much fun listening to those remixes! And some people did – you know those cheesy kinda “Buddha Bar” CDs they use in candle shops? (laughs) There’s some things like that where we’d be listening and saying, “This isn’t our song!” Then we’d listen some more and all of a sudden (sings chorus) “She brings down the moon!” (laughs) So that was a lot of fun to hear people’s versions: their visions of our vision, you know? The whole vision thing! (laughs)
DOMINION: When you finish and release the new album, and then you go out and tour, how important will it be for you to focus solely on Dark Party material? Since you are a full band now, but you’re known for other things, how do you plan to meet that challenge?
ACEY: It’s hard to say. I just want the show to be great. And if I happen to have a song that fills a void in the set list, I’ll use it. We’ve done a really cool version of “Black Apples” and we used to do “White Wedding” but I didn’t really feel comfortable doing a Murderdolls track because I didn’t write any of them. So “White Wedding” was kind of a compromise. But then I don’t want a set full of covers, either. It just depends. I try to feel it out. I like to bring new things to the live show. One of the tours we did of the UK, we had burlesque dancers; another time we had different opening acts wherever we played. So it’s not just “Oh, here we are again.”
DOMINION: That brings up another question. On the Trashlight record you covered a Ramones song; on the Dark Party record you did a Cult song: will you be doing a cover on the new album? Why or why not?
ACEY: I don’t think we’re going to put a cover on the new album, actually. We’ve been talking about and, although there’s a couple of songs that we’ve kicked around, and even though we love doing covers, on this album I don’t think we’re going to have one. Not this time around. There is one song that I’m kinda holding out for, but the thing about The Dark Party is that it’s a complete democracy – as long as they agree with what I have to say (laughs)! But right now the democracy says no covers. And I’m in agreement with the democracy.
DOMINION: What is your opinion about goth/alternative music these days? It seems like a very fractured environment in some ways, with so many sub-genres. Granted, the same can be said for jazz or metal; but what do you think of all this and what does it mean to you as you’ve seen it evolve over the years?
ACEY: It’s hard to say. I just saw VNV Nation the other night. The one thing that’s really interesting about – let’s just use the word ‘goth’ for everything, and of course under that umbrella you have everything from darkwave to EBM to industrial and so on. So with respect to the scene, there’s a lot of people that don’t identify within those fractures. If they’re into darkwave, they don’t like EBM; if they into EBM they don’t like industrial. Whatever. And that’s cool. But in the live context, when you see an EBM band live or a darkwave band live or an industrial band live, sonically, it all kind of blends together a bit more. VNV were pretty heavy live, believe it or not. And there’s this great community within the crowd that you don’t always see in other styles of music, you know what I mean? But I don’t know if everyone realizes that. You know, people who don’t go to the shows.
DOMINION: The people who are unlikely to see, say, an EBM band live because they’re only into industrial and so on? That they’re missing out?
ACEY: Exactly. Under that goth umbrella that I mentioned, all those compartments… if everyone came out.
DOMINION: It would certainly make a scene stronger. At least around here, anyway.
ACEY: I don’t like to keep it too complicated, you know? Maybe it’s just like pornography: you just know it when you see it.
DOMINION: What are you listening to these days?
ACEY: I like everything, new and old. I still do. I’m always trying to find new stuff. Even if I don’t like it, I want to hear it. I’m getting ready to go to South America with Joan where we have a couple dates with TV On The Radio. And I’m not trying to talk shit about them, but I wanted to check them out because they produced the new Jane’s Addiction – which is awesome, by the way, and they did a great job on it – but I heard them and I’m just not into them. But I tried. And to me, that’s the way music should be. Try new things, listen to different shit: it’s cool.
DOMINION: What else, then? What else have you tried out, listened to that’s new?
ACEY: I am going to sound like such an asshole when I tell you this, and it’s almost cliché now, but I think Skrillex is pretty cool.
DOMINION: He’s very polarizing, isn’t he?
ACEY: Yeah… it’s pretty cool. (laughs) When I heard it… I know it’s a trendy thing to say, but it’s pretty cool. But as far as new music, dark music that’s cool… Ladytron’s “Witching Hour” I still can’t get enough of all this time later. ‘She Wants Revenge’ I like a lot. It’s really funny how they’re considered such a hipster band, yet they’re so derivative of 80s goth! So it’s funny to me to see Adam, the guitar player, up there in a fedora! It’s like, “Dude! You can’t wear a fedora in this scene! What are you doing?” (laughs) Goths don’t wear fedoras! (laughs)
DOMINION: That’s the title of the interview now. (laughs)
ACEY: (laughs) I’m okay with that.
DOMINION: How are your buddies in CombiChrist? They seem to be doing pretty well.
ACEY: Joe’s a friend of mine, yeah. I saw them open for Rammstein at the (Madison Square) Garden! They were amazing! Joe is a real hard worker and he deserves all the success that he gets. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a hustler, baby. He’s a great drummer and he’s always got a great vision and he’s a really artistic guy all the way around. Andy and the rest of the band all treated us great. I knew Trevor, the other drummer, from when I played with Imperative Reaction. So the tour that we did with them was great, and then seeing them at the Garden and knowing Joe as a friend, there’s no better jewel in the crown of gigs than to say you played Madison Square Garden. So I was really emotional and really happy for all of them because I know what that means.
DOMINION: You’ve played some big shows.
ACEY: I’m lucky that I have a few of those, you know? Download Festival; Summer Sonic in Japan… but I haven’t played the Garden yet, so he has that up on me! (laughs) But that Rammstein show… and Rammstein, it’s funny, you know, because I felt like they kinda dropped off the radar for a while, you know? And I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’m a big fan of production – and I’m German – so I figured I would like it, but I didn’t expect to love it. They were so great! That show was phenomenal. The pyro was really well thought out and I didn’t expect that. It wasn’t fire for the sake of fire. Every detail was so well thought out and I feel that’s something that’s really missing these days. You’ve got a lot of bands that charge a lot of money for ticket prices these days and I look at them and wonder where the money’s going. I saw that Rammstein production and it was like, how did they make any money? They had their little “R” logos on every single bolt that’s part of their stage, you know? That costs money. It was incredible. Anyway…
DOMINION: Well, is there anything you’d like to leave off on?
ACEY: Just that the re-release is coming out on Deadlight Records and the seven-inch, for Record Store Day, is through Trashpit. They’re (labels) both online so people can check them out at their websites. We’re going to be shooting a video for one of the songs off the new album soon, probably around Record Store Day, so things are… heating up.
DOMINION: Last thing: how’s your cat?
ACEY: Dante? He’s awesome! Causing trouble right now, as a matter of fact… (laughs)